What ALMOST ruined the first road trip of my life?
Hint: It wasn’t car trouble, it wasn’t trouble with the law, and it wasn’t a crazy hitchhiker.
It was the United States government!
The morning I left, I was screaming in my car. The crazy kind of screaming that expresses joy. The rush of excitement from this newly found (temporary) freedom made me go crazy with a wild energy. I know I flipped off a few places I’d worked at along the way. “Bye Jersey! Bye asshole drivers! It’s just me and you, nature, three whole days! Yeah!!!” People on the road were staring because I was actually doing this. I probably looked like Nicholas Cage on an angry hands free phone call.
With the New Jersey state line now behind me, the natural landscape of upstate New York started to develop outside my car windows. The sun was now shining bright after a hazy and slightly foggy early morning. The colors were out in full force, I had gotten lucky. The greens were fading, yet still vibrant. The oranges were popping, signs of the change. The yellows stood out the most, if only because I was constantly in search of the golden leaves as I passed by. The way the sunlight reflects off of golden leaves is something to be savored.
Driving, to some, is a burden. To others it’s relaxing. The drive to Massachusetts was just that, with only a few cars and trucks on the road. I took the New York Thruway. The perfect route, although besides the colors of the trees, not very scenic. That was enough for me! I felt alive and adventurous.
After three hours I had arrived at October Mountain State Forest. The entrance was on a small road, one which could barely fit two cars. A typical back road of Massachusetts: small, quiet, and quaint. As I pulled in, I looked around.
It was empty. No one in sight. What the hell?
Then it hit me. The United States government had been shut down for over a week…was the park closed?! Did shutting down the government include shutting down State Parks, too?! More importantly, did I just drive three hours for nothing?
Suddenly I saw a ranger. “Hey, excuse me, is the park closed? Because of the government shutdown?” He knew I was from Jersey by my license plates, I don’t think he liked that. Maybe he just thought it was a stupid question. It might have been. He gave a short, quick response without even looking me in the eye. “No”
Of course! National parks are run by the feds and state parks are run by the…states. Anyway, it was time to start hiking!
October Mountain was made for hiking, especially hiking in October. Who would’ve thought? All I did was walk around admiring the leaves and taking pictures with my phone. I found a few cool places, and at one point it looked like the leaves were dumped onto the ground straight out of a Willy Wonka box. I nicknamed it Candy Mountain.
October Mountain made me fall in love with hiking. The only sounds I could hear were the leaves rustling under my feet. There was peace and serenity. Finally, in my life, I could relax with only nature to comfort me. Everything was amazing in that moment. After all I’d been through that year, I could breathe and take it all in. I could once again appreciate life. Solitude. Perfection.
Well, except for the fact that I realized bears were somewhat common in Massachusetts and I was by myself in the middle of a forest, on a mountain, which just happened to be in Massachusetts.
I panicked. Here I was living in some kind of dream world, escaping the rigors of everyday life, completely naive to the fact that I was in the wilderness. I was not an experienced outdoorsman by any standard. I turned around after an hour and made my way back to the entrance. The only problem was that I couldn’t find it. What I did find, however, was this cool tree tunnel which was probably carved out by an animal. I actually went down it and then back up. It was that big! The good news? No bears.
Maybe I panicked a little too much, but I have no regrets. I finally found the entrance after a short time of looking, got in my car, and said goodbye to October Mountain (and that asshole park ranger).
My first stop on my first roadtrip was now complete and it wasn’t a disaster. It was time to head to Vermont! My plan was to be there by nightfall, sleep in my car, and then explore the state tomorrow. I was off.
As I pulled away from October Mountain I couldn’t help myself but explore some more backroads that were close by. I loved the feeling of small town Massachusetts and I didn’t want to forget it. The leaves were so beautiful this time of year. Plus, maybe I’d find a spot for a scenic picture or something.
Yeah, that’s the one. The perfect picture to remember October Mountain. “I could get used to this photography thing”